9th DA’s Office attorney wage adjustment approved by Garfield County commissioners | PostIndependent.com

9th DA’s Office attorney wage adjustment approved by Garfield County commissioners

Garfield County commissioners on Monday took the first step aimed at helping the tri-county 9th District Attorney’s Office hire and retain prosecuting attorneys to keep up with a growing caseload.

The office, led by District Attorney Jeff Cheney, is currently down three attorneys and hopes to add two new positions as part of the upcoming 2022 budget talks.

Commissioners agreed to a wage hike for the existing attorney staff and for the current vacant positions. That will cost the county about $37,000 more per year.

An additional request made by Cheney for the new positions and to bring other support staff up to a more competitive wage will have to be addressed by not only Garfield but Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties as well, commissioners said.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said the county’s Finance Committee, of which he is a member, agreed the wage increase is needed in order to make the local DA’s office more competitive with other offices around the state.

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“This request is to bring the current and vacant positions up to competitive standards,” Jankovsky said. “I believe this will go a long way to improve morale in the District Attorney’s Office.”

He said he believes part of the funds can come from federal American Rescue Plan allocations, because the current backlog in cases is due in large part to delays caused by the COVID-19 restrictions on in-person court proceedings.

Cheney reported to the commissioners last month that there is a current backlog of 147 jury trials, most of which are in Garfield County.

Currently, his prosecutors are handling between 200 and 300 active felony cases at a time. The American Bar Association standard is no more than 150 felonies at a time.

Salaries in the 9th District lag behind some other Colorado District Attorney’s offices by anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 per year, he said.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

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